Answers to Your Questions About Toxic Free Living

Is There Any Difference Between PET and PETE?

Question from Katherine

I’m confused about PET and PETE. Are they the same thing or different?

Debra’s Answer

PET and PETE are both acronyms for polyethylene terephthalate.

Polyethylene terephthalate is a clear, tough plastic in the polyester
family. It is made from only two chemicals that are tightly bonded together.

PET has been approved as safe by the FDA and the International Life Sciences Institute
(ILSI). In 1994, ILSI stated that “PET polymer has a long history of safe consumer use,
which is supported by human experience and numerous toxicity studies.”

There is one important thing to know about polyethylene terephthalate.

Because it has “phthalate” in its name, some people think PET contains toxic “phthalates.” This is not correct.

The toxic “phthalates” that leach out of plastics are “orthophthalates,” which is a completely different type of chemical than “terephthalate.”

I also researched to see if there was any outgassing from PET into the air. NASA has a website ( where you can look up all kinds of materials they have assessed for outgassing because they need to choose materials for spaceships that do not outgas. They found that PET needed zero curing time to be used in a spaceship.

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Colors in Silicone

There have been some questions about what type of colorant is use to make brightly-colored silicone products.

I’m in the process of reading a book called Advances in Polymer Coated Textiles=which states that coloring agents for silicone coatings need to be chosen carefully because organic pigments are not suitable for high-temperature uses. [Organic pigments are carbon based and can be natural or synthetic. Synthetic organic pigments are made from petroleum.]

Therefore inorganic pigments such as iron oxides and titanium dioxides are used.

I’m thinking this would hold true for silicone kitchenware as well.

I also found a study that measured color leaching from silicone: EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF DENTISTRY: Color Stability of Silicone or Acrylic Denture Liners: An in Vitro Investigation. Their tests show the silicone dental liners showed far less change in color than the acrylic liners.

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Which Handwashing Dish Soap Do You Use?

Question from Sicili

Hi Debra. I noticed on one of your comments, you said you hardly have any plastic in your home at all. I just wanted to ask ,what type of hand dish washing soap do you use for doing dishes ? I am trying to figure out if I should use the natural ones listed on EWG or if I should try to avoid the plastic and use bar soap to wash the dishes? I try to learn as much as I can from your books and website but for some things I would just really like to know what you use right now. How do you feel about Tropical Traditions, household traditions dish soap? Thank you so much for your time.

Debra’s Answer

Right now I use BioKlenn All Natural Dish Soap.

The one I get has a citrus scent that I like and it cleans really well.

I’ve also recently used Earthview Dish Detergent, which I liked a lot. It’s made for people with MCS.

Tropical Traditions is a good company with very high standards. Their Dish Liquid is developed by and for people with allergies, asthma, and MCS. However, they do not give a complete list of ingredients. Only “surfactants,” “emulsifiers,” etc.

I am a stickler for wanting to know the actual ingredients, which are listed on the brands I use.

I’m not saying there is anything wrong with Tropical Traditions. I just don’t know because they are not disclosing their ingredients.

The dish soap I use comes in a plastic bottle. I wouldn’t use bar soap to wash your dishes unless it is a very plain soap or a bar soap developed specifically for dishes. Bar soap is designed for skin, not for eating.

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Non-Profits Sue General Mills for False and Misleading Use of ‘Natural’

Tests Reveal Nature Valley Products Contain Glyphosate,
an Ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup

Washington, DC – Today, three non profit organizations filed a lawsuit against General Mills for misleading the public by labeling their Nature Valley brand granola bars “Made with 100% NATURAL whole grain OATS.” It was recently discovered that the herbicide chemical glyphosate, an ingredient in Roundup and hundreds of other glyphosate-based herbicides, is present in the Nature Valley granola bars, which consumers expect to be natural and free of toxins.

Moms Across America, Beyond Pesticides and Organic Consumers Association with The Richman Law Group filed jointly on behalf of the non profit members in Washington DC under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act.

“As a mother, when I read “100% Natural” I would expect that to mean no synthetic or toxic chemicals at all. Glyphosate is a toxic chemical that the EPA recognizes as a “reproductive effector” which “can cause liver and kidney damage” and “digestive effects.” It is unacceptable that Nature Valley granola bars contain any amount of this chemical.” Zen Honeycutt, Founder and Executive Director of Moms Across America.

A national survey conducted by Consumer Reports in 2015 finds that sixty six percent of consumers seek out products with a “natural” food label under the false belief that they are produced without pesticides, genetically modified organisms, hormones, and artificial ingredients.

“Glyphosate cannot be considered ‘natural’ because it is a toxic, synthetic herbicide,” said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. “Identified by the World Health Organization(WHO) as a carcinogen, it should not be allowed for use in food production, and certainly not in food with a label that suggests to consumers that the major ingredient –oats– is 100% natural, when it is produced with and contains the highly hazardous glyphosate,” he said.

“Food grown with dangerous pesticides like glyphosate isn’t natural. Consumers understand this. That’s why sales of natural products are booming. Unfortunately, companies’ misleading claims trick consumers into buying just what they’re trying to avoid. This has to be stopped.” -Alexis Baden-Mayer, Political Director of the Organic Consumers Association

The case specifically cites the use and presence of the weedkiller glyphosate in General Mills’ Nature Valley Granola products. The hazardous chemical is used during the production of oats, the major ingredient in these products, which are marketed as “natural” and labeled “Made with 100% Natural Whole Grain Oats.” As a result, glyphosate is present in the natural-labeled products.

Proponents of glyphosate herbicide use may claim that the residue levels found in many foods and beverages in America recently are below the EPA allowable levels established in 2014, and therefore consumers have no reason to be concerned. However, a 2015 study published in the journal Environmental Health finds that chronic, low-dose exposure to glyphosate as low as .1 parts per billion leads to adverse effects on liver and kidney health. A study released in early 2016 finds that glyphosate can cause changes to DNA function resulting in the onset of chronic disease, including diabetes, obesity, and Alzheimer’s disease.

The lawsuit alleges that, when marketing Nature Valley products, General Mills misleads and fails to disclose to consumers of the use and presence of glyphosate and its harmful effects. Plaintiffs are asking a jury to find that General Mills’ “natural” labeling is deceptive and misleading and therefore a violation of law, and require its removal from the market.

View a web version of this press release with links here

Download complaint

Debra’s Answer

I just have to comment on this.

I have no problem with these groups filing a suit, however the logic just boggles my mind.

1. There is NO legal definition of “natural.” It is widely used in the marketplace in reference to ingredients being of plant, animal or mineral origin, and not petrochemical.

2. ALL so-called “natural” products contain pesticides, which are intentionally added to the ingredients during the growing of the plants and animals. Also other toxic chemicals may be used. This is all that “natural” means: the ingredients are not made from petrochemicals.

3. If General Mills is false and misleading, so is every other product that claims to be natural.

Part of the problem in the marketplace is our really inadequate labeling laws. Labels on food and personal care items require only that the ingredient that “goes into the pot” (so to speak) be on the label. Its like a recipe tells you only what to put in the bowl. Labels only list the end ingredient, even if it contains many other sub-ingredients.

For example, if “ham” is and ingredient in a food product, labeling laws do not require the label to list the nitrates that are in the ham. Nor do labeling laws require that pesticides or other processing chemicals be listed.

If I were labeling supermarket applesauce, I would say
* apples (with a list of pesticides commonly used on apples)
* GMO corn syrup
* water (with chlorine, fluoride and other water pollutants)

And then I would label organic applesauce
* apples
* water

But instead we have to say
* organic apples
* filtered water

And the toxic product requires no qualifiers to indicate that it is toxic.

We need a MASSIVE overhaul of labeling in order for consumers to know what is actually in products.

I would say most products on the market today are false and misleading with their labeling. General Mills Nature Valley is not the only one.

However, there is actually something that is false and misleading about Nature Valley, and it’s not the glyphosate. It’s that Nature Valley gives an impression that it is natural in it’s name, packaging and advertising.

I wonder if any of these products would sell if manufacturers were required to show consumers right on the label what’s in them.

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Nontoxic Glue for Wood Floor

Question from Katie

Hi Debra,

Glad to be able to ask advice on nontoxic glue for a patch job. We had to remove several planks of engineered hardwood flooring in front of our back sliding door. We will be putting down new planks but I am concerned about fumes from the glue.(I will outgas the new planks…)

I read on your site that you recommend. Titebond II yellow glue for this. We are on a concrete slab.

Our handyman looked into it and thinks Titebond 771 would be better.

What would you recommend? I am very chemically sensitive.

Thank you for your help.

Debra’s Answer

No, I wouldn’t recommend Titlebond 771.

Here is the SDS for Titebond II

Here is the SDS for Titebond 771

Notice that 771 says “: This material is considered hazardous by the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.1200).”

!! says “this material is not considered hazardous by the OSHA Hazard Communication Standard (29 CFR 1910.”

I am confident Titebond !! will do the job. I’ve used it to attach wood to concrete with no problem.

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The Fastest Way to Remove Paint Fumes

Last week I had an interesting experience on a private Facebook group I belong to.

A pregnant woman with a 1 1/2-year-old posted that she had just moved into here new house the day after renovations were done and she could still smell new paint, floor adhesive and lacquer. She was trying to “get these toxins out of the house FAST!”

Given that this is a private group and anyone can post on any subject, she got quite a few well-intended recommendations. They were not, however, the correct actions to take to remove volatile chemical gasses from her home.

Here are some of the suggestions (and my comment on them on the indent lines after each comment):

  • I have a floor fan you can use.


  • Do a wipe down with vinegar and water.

This will do nothing for paint fumes.

  • Leave all windows open so fumes can vent out of the house. Can also put 2 or 3 box fans in windows on one side of house in open windows drawing air OUT of the house. This will pull in fresh air from the remaining open windows. You need to let the fumes escape from the walls and flooring, and then be vented out of the house. It may take some time.

Ventilation is always good, but in this case what is needed is to accelerate the release of the VOCs in the paints and adhesives.

  • Place bowls of baking soda with lemon squeezed on top (leave the lemons in the bowl too) around the house.

Baking soda does remove odors, but not specifically paint fumes.

  • Take big bowls full of ammonia and place them in every room, shut the door, it absorbs the smells.

This may remove odors, but ammonia itself is a toxic chemical and will not remove toxic gasses.

  • Buy an air purifier from Target for around $100.

Air filters sold at Target and other such stores do NOT remove paint fumes and other VOCs. They are designed to remove particles such as dust and pollen, which are larger than chemical gasses.

  • There are a number of plants that remove toxins from the air , floors etc and then give you fresh air. You can google the list. I believe there are about 12 different ones you can choose from.

Plants are not adequate to handle the toxic chemical gasses in this home. You would need hundreds of plants. I did the math once on this to see if I could recommend this instead of air filters. Not in a situation like this. A 9×12-foot room with an 8-foot ceiling is 864 cubic fee, so you would need 72 plants to duplicate the results from Wolverton labs—a virtual jungle!

Here’s what to do in a situation like this:

      1. Get yourself and your family out of the house. Find somewhere else to stay until you have handled the toxic exposure.
  • Get an air filter that removes toxic gasses. The best air filter I know of for removing toxic fumes from an area fast is the EnviroKlenz Mobile Unit.

Of course it’s always best to paint with a zero-VOC paint to begin with.

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Do You Need to Change Your HVAC Filter?

Last week I finally changed my HVAC filter and it made so much difference that I had to tell you about this.

Just to be clear, an HVAC filter removes dust and other particles from the air. It has nothing to do with removing toxic gasses (for toxic gasses you need something like the EnviroKlenz HVAC filter. The purpose of the particle filter is to remove particles so they don’t clog up the HVAC.

HVAC particle filters are designed to last for three months, and then you need to change them. I was one month overdue because I can’t climb up there and change it myself. I need to get someone else to do it.

When we took the filter out, it had a lot of dust buildup all over it.

What was amazing to me was how much BETTER the air conditioning worked after the filter was changed!

I leave my A/C on 72 degrees. With the new filter, it was way too cold. I now have my A/C set to 74 degrees and am entirely comfortable. A new filter made that much difference.

I’ll save more than the cost of the filter this month on my power bill, and create fewer air pollution emissions from the generation of electricity to keep the air cool.

Now I want to give you a tip too about choosing a dust filter for your HVAC.

I chose a Honeywell Allergy Plus Air Filter, which I purchased at my local Home Depot.

All HVAC filters have a rating that tells you how much they will filer from the air.

Here is the rating from the filter I purchased. I like this label because it clearly shows that as you move up the ratings the filter removes more volume of particles and more different types of particles.


I bought a 7 because it removes more than 4, and they didn’t have any 9 or 10s on the shelf.

What you want to look for is a MERV rating or an FPR. The difference is:

  • MERV is a universal industry rating
  • FPR is a made up rating by the manufacturer.
  • MERV 8 is considered the best choice to protect your HVAC without spending more money than you need to. FPR 7-9 is equivalent to MERV 8.

If you think ahead, you can order a box of four filters online and save money. And you’ll be good for a year.

Filters are supposed to last 90 days, but not every day is the same. If you’re not running your HVAC, you don’t need to change the filter. Check it every 90 days. If it’s grey, change it. If it’s still white, let it go a little longer.

But changing your filter at the right time DOES make a difference in your power bill and pollution. So pay attention and change your filter when it needs to be changed.

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Lightweight Non-Toxic Dinner Plate

Question from Carol

Hi Debra,

I’ve been using melamine for dinner plates, but I worry that they’re toxic. I have a 2 1/2 year old daughter. I need a lightweight plate because I have RSI and some disc trouble. What would you recommend? I couldn’t find anything through Google search.

Debra’s Answer

I think what you want is enamelware. It’s steel with a baked-on enamel coating, which is basically glass. It’s the dinnerware you take camping, but now it’s in a lot of stylish colors and patterns.

Here are a lot of choices for enamel dinnerware on

You can also just search on your favorite search engine for “enamel dinnerware.”

Some people are concerned about heavy metals in enamel. So before you buy, contact the manufacturer and ask if there are heavy metals in the enamel. You can check for yourself with a Lead Check kit.

from westFrom West Elm

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Pure Rooms

Question from Patricia

Hi Debra,

I continue to reference your website as the go to place for info on MCS safe products. Thank you!

I was wondering if you had ever heard of these allergen – free Pure Rooms? They use a multiple step process to clean and purify hotel rooms for people with allergies. There is also an air purifier in each room.

I have MCS and have been able to tolerate some of these rooms. I think the ones I was able to tolerate better were in hotels that hadn’t been remodeled recently.

Unfortunately, the number of Pure Rooms available at any hotels is dwindling. I’m guessing that the cost of maintaining the rooms and / or lack of bookings due to price is resulting in their demise. This is disappointing as these rooms were the only way I could get away for a little vacation.

Do you consider these Pure Rooms MCS safe due to the process used to purify? It seems that the Pure Rooms need more publicity and feedback so people will book them and then hotels could offer more of them.

Pat in Cleveland

Debra’s Answer

Well…not much information on their website.

I don’t see anything about what they do to make the rooms PURE.

Buried in a blog post I found this description of the air purifier:
Each PURE Room is treated according to a patented 7-step purification process and features an air-purifier powerful enough to be classified by the FDA as a Class II medical-grade device. Scientifically proven to eliminate and protect against 98-100% of viruses, bacteria and other harmful irritants, this technology provides superior air-quality and a more rejuvenating environment during recovery.

No mention is made of removing toxic gasses or heavy metals. Sounds like it basically and allergen filter, not a toxics filter.

I think it’s a great idea to have PURE rooms, but I’d like to see them have a toxic-free criteria.

And these rooms should be widely promoted so hotels will have more and more of them.

Oh here, I finally found a link to the PURE PROCESS on the page where you book a room:

Nothing refreshes a room like PURE. Our patented, 7-step purification process treats every surface, including the air, removing up to 99% of pollutants so you can breathe easy, and rest peacefully. PURE’s leading air-purification system protects you from airborne irritants, and eliminates odors at the source, leaving your room smelling fresh and clean. PURE’s unique, hypoallergenic mattress and pillow encasements provide soft, breathable coverings to protect you even further. Carpets, upholstery and all surfaces are deep cleaned and specially treated. Our rigorous maintenance is performed regularly to keep PURE Room’s certified allergy-friendly. When you stay in a PURE Room, you are free to live without boundaries, confident you have the freshest air quality in the hotel industry.

PURE’S Patented, 7-Step Purification Process

  1. Deep Clean Air-Handling Unit. Deep Clean Air-Handling Unit. A PURE heating and air conditioning unit along with air clean filters results in healthier air circulating throughout the room. Coils are deep cleaned and disinfected using PURE’s advanced treatment. And finally, an enzyme-based drip-pan tablet is in place to ensure maximum protection and minimum allergy at home or in partner hotels.
  2. PURE Tea Tree Oil Cartridge. Tea tree oil is a natural substance known for its antimicrobial and disinfectant properties. A cartridge of this tea tree oil is installed in the air-handling unit to maintain sanitized conditions.
  3. Carpet and Upholstery Cleaning. Our patented PURE clean solution is used to maximize the removal of dirt, bacteria and mold from all soft surfaces that traditional cleaners leave behind.
  4. One Time Shock Treatment. This advanced shock treatment destroys nearly all of the mold and bacteria in every nook and cranny of the room, removing any lingering odors caused by these and other contaminants, including but not limited to cigar or cigarette smoke, pets, or other unpleasant sources. The result is a fresh, crisp, environment.
  5. PURE Shield. This bacteriostatic barrier is applied to all room surfaces to repel microorganisms that cause illness and discomfort, and prevent their growth. Our advanced shield process makes it nearly impossible for bacteria viruses to survive in a PURE environment.
  6. Air Purification System. PURE’s air purifier is 24-hour defense against airborne irritants. Listed by the FDA as a Class II Medical Device, PURE’s state-of-the-art system is proven to kill 98% to 100% of bacteria and viruses.
  7. Allergy-Friendly Bedding. PURE’s personal protection continues. Aside from air clean filters, PURE uses only micro-fiber, mono-filament mattress and pillow encasements for lesser risks of allergy at home.

So…nothing about toxics. Bedding is synthetic. It’s all about bacteria and viruses and allergens.

But it may be better than most hotel rooms. I don’t know. I’ve never stayed in one.

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Nightstand from Room and Board

Question from Sue

Hi Debra,

I found a Zen style nightstand I love at Room and Board. It’s walnut veneer over plywood and MDF (argh) so I called them to inquire. They told me all of their products have 0 VOC’s by the time they leave the warehouse, meet California standards, and many are Greengard certified (but they don’t spend the $ to test all of their products for that, they test mostly the kid stuff). They use all non-toxic glues. Do you think it’s safe?

Thanks Deb!

Debra’s Answer

You are telling me that it’s made from materials that usually are red flags for me, but Room & Board seems to be aware of the outgassing issues and say they don’t exist.

So I would proceed with caution, bring it home, and be prepared to return it if you find it does outgas after all.

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